It may be a complete coincidence but we recently discovered that the Roll-On Roll-Off Freight Ferry was pioneered in Preston, the home of Freightlink... It must be fate.
Albert Edward Dock in Preston opened in 1892 and at the time was the largest single dock in the country. In 1948 the dock was the first to introduce roll-on roll-off tracking, utilising the technique used by tank landing craft during the Second World War.
By the 1960s, the Preston Docks held the record for transporting the largest amount of ferry traffic, reaching a peak in 1968 when 1,437,000 tonnes of trade passed through the port. 16% of the amount being shipped throughout the whole of the UK.
In the late 1950s and 1960s, the MV Bardic and MV Ionic ferries regularly docked in Preston carrying both vehicles and containers. From 1961 to 1971, the Atlantic Steam Navigation Company offered services from Preston to various ports across the Irish Sea, including Larne, Belfast, Dublin and Waterford.
The Preston Digital Archive has the following to say about the MV Ionic ferry and ferry operations in Preston Docks
"Built before the era of bow thrust units, she was equipped with a bow rudder but needed tug assistance in Preston. In today's world of short sea crossings and fast turnrounds her schedule was leisurely and tidally dependent. Within a couple of years the Preston by-pass opened and our motorway network rapidly expanded. As with the railways a century before, an established motorway network favoured the short sea route and transfer of the service to Cairnryan, close to Stranraer, in 1974 allowed a much reduced passage time and more intensive use of this ship and its successors."
Unfortunately as the size of ships increased, fewer could utilise the dock. Also, the import of cargo decreased whilst the cost of dredging the Ribble channel increased. The roll-on roll-off ferry operations were lost to competing ports in the South East. In 1979 the decision was made to redevelop the docks.
Today, the docks are used by yachts, river boats and various forms of pleasure craft. The surrounding waterside is home to a retail park, cinema, apartments and some light industry.